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five Political Allegory in the 1980s Xiao Jun and Bai Hua although the goujian story does not appear to have had a significant impact during the Cultural Revolution decade, it never disappeared entirely. Indeed, at a critical moment in the Qinghua University drama of summer 1968, when worker-propaganda teams forced the warring student factions on the elite Beijing campus to end their fighting and form an alliance , Kuai Dafu, the humiliated leader of the more radical student group, made a long speech to his followers urging them to persevere, taking part of his text directly from Goujian: “Sleep on a wooden plank, eat bile, gather forces for ten years, review the bitter lessons for another ten years.”1 What happened at Qinghua and on other major Chinese campuses signaled an important turning point in the Cultural Revolution, sounding the death knell to its Red Guard phase.2 It was also Kuai Dafu’s personal Mount Kuaiji.3 His speech, as William Hinton wrote in his account of the Qinghua events, was an appeal “for organizational continuity, albeit underground, until conditions were more favorable. . . . A plea for a comeback twenty years later . . . when the time was ripe . . . to make another bid for power.”4 Mao Zedong died in September 1976, bringing an end to two decades of almost unrelieved havoc and misery in the lives of tens of millions of his compatriots. After a brief period of transition, the political leadership of China passed to a man, Deng Xiaoping, who along with his family had suªered greatly during the Cultural Revolution. Deng was determined to 1 7 7 put China on a very diªerent course, emphasizing order over chaos and modernization over revolution. Among the new policy directions that were adopted under Deng’s leadership, beginning in the late 1970s, was a palpable (although frustratingly inconsistent) loosening of the political constraints on Chinese intellectual life. In these circumstances, criticism of the Mao years (and at least indirectly of Mao himself ), although certainly not without its risks, became a live possibility. xiao jun (1907–1988) Few Chinese intellectuals perhaps had more reason to take advantage of this possibility than the writer Xiao Jun, who had been intermittently at war with the Communist Party ever since the early 1940s in Yan’an and, although by no means entirely unadmiring of Mao Zedong, bridled at the Chinese leader’s arbitrary and dictatorial style of rule. Born in the northeastern province of Liaoning into a family of farmers and craftsmen , Xiao had little formal education and joined the army in his late teens. In the early 1930s, he began writing fiction in Harbin. Shortly after this, the provinces of northeastern China having come under Japanese control, he journeyed to Shanghai, where he became a disciple of Lu Xun. In 1935, with Lu Xun’s help, he published his first novel, an anti-Japanese work entitled Village in August (Bayue de xiangcun). After the outbreak of the SinoJapanese War (1937–1945), Xiao Jun left Shanghai, eventually winding up in Yan’an, the wartime capital of the Communist movement. A free spirit, stubbornly defiant, and fearless in his criticism of Communist policies and actions that he considered unjust, inhumane, or senseless, Xiao repeatedly got into trouble with the party from the early 1940s on, though he was not eªectively silenced until some years later.5 “My ‘interment,’” as he put it in his speech to the Fourth Congress of Writers and Artists in 1979, “began in 1949 and I have only recently managed to claw my way back out of the ground.”6 During Xiao Jun’s “thirty-year hibernation” (to use his own phrase),7 he continued to write. Although much of his work dealt with contemporary themes, he was convinced that a greater understanding of the ideas and wisdom of the past might help people in the present and future to avoid repeating similar mistakes and to manage their aªairs in a more sensible way. Xiao claimed to have a special fascination with three earlier turning points in Chinese history: the Shang-Zhou, the Spring and Autumn–Warring States, and the Ming-Qing.8 Although he did not draw the analogy explicitly, each p o l i t i c a l a l l e g o r y i n t h e 1 9 8 0 s 1 7 8 Figure 24. Xiao Jun. Source: Zhang Yumao, Xiao Jun zhuan. of these periods was well...


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